By Heidi Sawyer
With time, everything changes, including how we look for career opportunities.
You may still have to bring a small stack of resumes to a job fair, but it's not just about handing them out. Some employers at job fairs aren't even currently hiring. What are they doing at the job fair, you ask? They could be doing any number of things, including:
- Looking for future leaders
- Meeting possible candidates
- Having conversations that could lead to a hire later on
- Seeking a certain skill set or interest level
- Looking for "good fit" candidates
- Looking for entry-level people who could grow with the company
A company never stops hiring for good. Planting a seed now with a recruiter could lead to something later. Your best bet is to research companies that you know will be at the fair, create a list of favorites whose booth you wish to visit and, then, make sure you have those crucial conversations.
It's About Professional Development
It's no longer common to climb the corporate ladder with one organization until you get that 50-year gold watch at retirement. What does this mean for you? It means you shouldn't wait until you are unemployed to search for the next best opportunity for you. Here are some things you can do:
- Look at your current career goals. Where do you want to be in five, 10, 20 years?
- What is the career path you need to take to get there?
- Line up your career objectives to lead you down that path.
- Attend career fairs to talk with company representatives in person. You'll learn more about the next position you are striving for and what skills you need to get there.
- Determine what you can do right now to grow your skill base.
- Research educational institutions that can help you gain those skills.
Discard the 9-to-5 Mentality
Your personal and professional development doesn't have set hours. As a professional, committed to your career you need to take time to focus on individual growth and building your network. Networking is not about attending events to sell your product or yourself it is about building relationships and making quality connections.
- Become a member of your trade association and/or local chamber and actively participate in their meetings and educational opportunities.
- Attend career fairs and business expos to make those connections.
- If you are among this demographic, join your local Young Professionals group. With a wide array of after-hours events you are sure to find something that helps you grow and you'll have fun while doing it.
- Commit to lifelong learning by attending trainings and taking classes. Employers are looking for individuals committed to growth.
Over the last few years LinkedIn has been growing exponentially, but are you using it effectively or are you just there? If you're among the latter, you're not alone. However, when you are trying to grow your career, it's best to stand out and not just blend into the crowd.
- Make sure you have a complete profile; update your skills and experience regularly.
- Step out of your comfort zone; participate in conversations on topics that you're knowledgeable and passionate about that also relate to your career.
- When attending networking events and making contacts, ask if they are using LinkedIn and if it would be okay to connect.
In the end, it's not about attending career fairs when you are unemployed and schlepping your resume around. It's about committing to your own personal and professional growth, it's about building relationships and, as I like to say, it's about shaking hands and kissing babies. Get out there and build that network!